Thought for the Day: Trees
“Our world is falling apart quietly. Human civilization has reduced the plant, a four-hundred-million-year-old life form, into three things: food, medicine, and wood. In our relentless and ever-intensifying obsession with obtaining a higher volume, potency, and variety of these three things, we have devastated plant ecology to an extent that millions of years of natural disaster could not. Roads have grown like a manic fungus, and the endless miles of ditches that bracket these roads serve as hasty graves for perhaps millions of plant species extinguished in the name of progress,” says American geochemist and geobiologist award winner Hope Jahren in her memoir Lab Girl. . .
“Planet Earth is nearly a Dr. Seuss book made real: every year since 1990 we have created more than eight billion new stumps. . . [O]n my good days, I feel like I can do something about this.
Every single year, at least one tree is cut down in your name. Here’s my personal request to you: If you own any private land at all, plant one tree on it this year. If you are renting a place with a yard, plant a tree in it and see if your landlord notices. If he does, insist to him that it was always there. Throw in a bit about how exceptional he is for caring enough about the environment to have put it there. If he takes the bait, go plant another one. Baffle some chicken wire at its base and string a cheesy birdhouse around its tiny trunk to make it look permanent, then move out and hope for the best.
There are more than one thousand successful tree species for you choose from, and that’s just for North America. You will be tempted to choose a fruit tree because they grow quickly and make beautiful flowers, but these species will break under moderate wind, even as adults. Unscrupulous tree planting services will pressure you to buy a Bradford pear or two because they establish and flourish in one year; you’ll be happy with the result long enough for them to cash your check. Unfortunately, these trees are also notoriously weak in the crotch and will crack in half during the first big storm. You must choose with a clear head and open eyes. You are marrying this tree: choose a partner, not an ornament. . .
Jahren continues, “Once your baby tree is in the ground, check it daily, because the first three years are critical. Remember that you are your tree’s only friend in a hostile world. If you do own the land that it is planted on, create a savings account and put five dollars in it every month, so that when your tree gets sick between ages twenty and thirty (and it will), you can have a tree doctor over to cure it, instead of just cutting it down. Each time you blow the account on tree surgery, put your head down and start over, knowing that your tree is doing the same. The first ten years will be the most dynamic of your tree’s life; what kind of overlap will it make with your own? . . .
Feature image: oak tree – http://hollywoodpark-tx.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/loan-oak-tree.jpg
Read a book. Plant a tree – and take care of it. You’ll have a great day.
P.S. Update 11/29/2016
After reading this post, my friend Gail from here on Maui wrote, “Agreed with everything but planting on property that doesn’t belong to you. One of our biggest problems here and on the mainland with rentals is that long-term tenants start to see the property as belonging to them; which includes the planting of trees. We had to remove two weed trees that were ruining the foundation, and maintenance of palm trees has become exorbitant. Fruit trees for sustainability is a more rational approach and should be encouraged.”
Probably Hope Jahren is not a landlord, so Gail’s advice seems reasonable: Check with your landlord first before you plant a tree. Check with your local botanical garden, farmer’s union, municipal government . . . to see where and what trees can be planted. You could become a part of a community group that plants and cares for trees in your town.
When I searched for “planting trees on Maui,” the first on the list was http://plantawish.org/
“A few years ago, Sara and Joe (founders of Plant a Wish) crowd-funded a journey to hold native tree planting events with communities in all 50 states.” Now they are still planting trees – and raising funds to make a documentary about their experiences.
Wherever you are, you are likely to find tree planting groups in your area. Join others to plant trees. Have fun while doing good work.
And to walk my talk, I’ve planted two trees, little saplings with long taper roots, that were generously given to me on Thanksgiving Day by Courtney, an Up-Country Maui friend. One sapling is a moringa.
Image from: http://miracletrees.org/
From “Eat the Weeds and other things too” at <http://www.eattheweeds.com/moringa-oleifera-monster-almost-2/>
From Deane Green, I’ve learned, “If you have a warm back yard, think twice before you plant a Moringa tree.
Is it edible? Yes, most of it. Is it nutritious? Amazingly so, flowers, seeds and leaves. Does it have medical applications? Absolutely, saving lives on a daily basis. Can it rescue millions from starvation? Yes, many times yes. So, what’s the down side? They don’t tell you that under good conditions it grows incredibly fast and large, overwhelming what ever space you allot to it. It can grow to monster proportions in one season.” Green says the tree grows more than 10 feet each year. “[E]very year I cut off 15- to 20-foot branches. It requires constant attention. Despite its impressive growth pattern, it’s an extremely brittle tree. A man can easily break off a branch four inches through,…. It’s nice to feel like Hercules now and then.”
So it is likely to do really well in the warm and sunny all year climate of Kihei. I do know now that if I can keep my little sapling alive for the first three years, I will likely need to cut it down to a three-foot stump as Green does every year.
Courtney also gave me a sapote sapling.
The sapote taste is sweet and delicious, with no acidity, much like a custard dessert with a hint of banana or peach.
Images from http://www.strangewonderfulthings.com/138.htm
I don’t know which kind of sapote my sapling is, but I’ve read that some can grow to be 100 ft. (over 30 meters) tall, so I will need to be careful when I place my sapote in my yard. They fruit within eight years. I look forward to picking my own sapote and gathering the moringa leaves and pods from trees in my yard in the years ahead.
Good luck with your planting too. Aloha, Renée